AL-QAEDA are set to become as dangerous as they were during the 9/11 attacks twenty years ago, an expert has claimed.
The terror cult has gained a ruthless new leader dubbed “the Sword of Revenge” – sparking fears of fresh attacks in the West.
Saif al-Adel, from Egypt, is thought to be the new chief of the terror group, and has set about recruiting hordes of ISIS fighters.
The ex-military general has been called a “brilliant and ruthless” strategist, and is expected to take over from Ayman Zawahari.
A senior British terrorism expert told the Daily Mirror: “Compared to Zawahiri he is likely to be a much more effective leader, at least so or more so even than bin Laden.”
It comes following rumours that Zawahari has died, prompting intelligence agencies to ready themselves for an “al-Qaeda rebrand”.
Zawahari took the reins from Osama bin Laden following his death in 2011, but has not been seen for years.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who monitored Saif’s movements for the government in the 2000s, told the Mirror: “He is highly likely to be the new leader as he is hugely respected amongst al-Qaeda but crucially he also respected amongst Islamic State.
“Not only could he be the new boss of al-Qaeda but he could also entice members of ISIS to join al-Qaeda or cause some kind of fusion between the two.
“There is cooperation between groups like this but Saif is so well-respected that he could cause even greater co-operation or even a merger.”
“He’s an intelligent, strategic thinker and al-Qaeda has been in the doldrums under Zawahiri.”
Col. Kemp said that fears were growing that Saif could “re-energise the movement” – and could look to “reinvigorate the organisation” in the US and Europe.
He added that Iranian influence on the group could also be “hugely problematic”, and Tehran could use the network to punish the US from afar without claiming direct responsibility for an attack.
Meanwhile, former FBI counter-terror expert Ali Soufan told the paper that Saif could be the “third Emir of Al-Qaeda”.
He said: “Saif’s revered status with the movement as well as his deep experience as a military intelligence and security leader and terrorist planner make him a potentially dangerous emir.”
It comes after US officials warned that the West faces the dual threat of ISIS and al-Qaeda as the terror cults rebuild in the Middle East.
ISIS militants are smuggling £100million into Syrian jails packed with brainwashed fighters ready to bust out and create the second incarnation of the caliphate, US officials say.
Meanwhile al-Qaeda is regaining power in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban along the border with Pakistan.
According to the Mirror, the group’s leader Ayman Zawahiri may have forged a close relationship with the Taliban – an Islamic fundamentalist group which is still waging war against western forces.
The US Treasury believes Taliban groups have discussed joining forces with militants funded by al-Qaeda.
This is despite former President Donald Trump’s administration claiming to have brokered a peace deal with the Taliban last year.